Trademarks and Industrial Designs (am. Design Patents) as innovation indicators

SC-Research carried out a short literature review for Tekes in the early summer 2008. The subject of the literature review was “Trademarks and Industrial Designs in Innovation Process”. The aim was to determine 1) in which ways do trademarks and industrial designs (am. design patents) indicate the innovation activity of businesses, 2) how do trademarks and industrial designs place themselves in relation to the timing of other innovation activity in businesses and 3) what kind of studies there exist on the subject.

According to the literature review, there exist somewhat conflicting views about the association between trademarks, industrial designs (and other industrial property rights) and innovation activity in businesses. Trademarks are mostly applied at the end of innovation process, when instead of investments to the development of the innovation; the investments already target the introduction on the market. Scientific literature does not seem to cover the issue of the timing of industrial designs in innovation process of businesses, but the general assumption is that they place themselves together with patent applications, that is to say before the introduction on the market. There are some studies about the association between trademarks and innovation activity, but from a rather restricted number of researchers (mainly UK and Australia). Industrial designs (am. design patents) are studied very seldom, whereas the use of industrial designers within innovation process of manufacturing businesses has been studied quite a lot.

Trade- and servicemarks could be suitable as innovation indicators since there is association between trademarks and innovation activity and for instance service businesses can use them fairly equally with other industries, whereas the use of patents is emphasized in manufacturing related businesses. Also SMEs (small and medium sized businesses) can use trademarks quite as equally as big businesses, since the costs of applying and maintenance of trademarks are not as large as compared to patent costs. The use of trademarks is not related to the technology level of businesses, but display the innovativeness related to trade and markets. Several studies conclude that trademarks represent a series of other, invisible firm level characteristics, such as innovativeness, that in turn increase productivity and the value of products and services.